Mesa is proposing one of the state's more liberal fireworks laws, allowing its residents to use sparklers and some other types of commercial fireworks.
The city would allow fireworks for about a week before the Fourth of July and before New Year's Day, and would designate several open spaces where residents could set them off while safety officials would supervise.
That's the least restrictive city policy currently under consideration in Arizona, as Mesa fire officials said other municipalities that are reviewing their fireworks policies are enacting total bans. In the East Valley, Tempe approved a ban last week.
Many Arizona cities are setting fireworks policies after the Legislature acted this spring to legalize their use and sale on Dec. 1. The new law allows cities and counties to ban or restrict use, but they cannot stop the sale of fireworks.
Some Mesa City Council members pushed for a ban, but Mayor Scott Smith argued the city might as well have some times of year when fireworks are legal because so many people have used them illegally for such a long time.
"I think it's a feel good measure that other cities have taken," Smith said Thursday.
Legalized fireworks will increase the number of injuries and the amount of damage, Councilman Scott Somers said. In the past five years, fireworks have caused $500,000 in damage across Mesa.
Somers is also a firefighter who warned sparklers could easily trigger fires in yards that would spread to a neighbor's house. He also fears fires will spread to wildlands east of the city. Somers said legal fireworks could be costly for Mesa because of a provision in Arizona's new law that allows the state to bill cities for fighting wildfires that start in a municipality.
"This state is flammable, particularly in the months of June, July and August," Somers said.
Fireworks sales would likely be allowed at stores year-round, while tents could sell during the peak fireworks seasons to meet higher demand.
The City Council discussed whether residents could use fireworks at their homes, but the group was split. The council will vote on residential use in November, when a more detailed fireworks ordinance is prepared for approval.
The idea of designated areas for fireworks triggered some humor about one of the city's most blighted shopping centers, Fiesta Village. Tensions have flared between its owner and the city, which has pushed for a clean-up of the vacant, fenced-off property. Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh has been the center's fiercest critic but did not attend Thursday's City Council discussion on fireworks.
"Since Councilmember Kavanaugh is not here, I'm going to go ahead and suggest the northwest corner of Alma School and Southern," Councilman Dave Richins said, referring to center's location.
Smith joined in on the joke.
"That could be the best suggestion I've heard in two-and-a-half years," Smith said, referring to how long he's been mayor.